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Annie K.
Member since Apr-02-04 · Last seen Mar-22-17
Annie Kappel

My YouTube channel, featuring pronunciations of non-English chess player names:

I'm 42 y/o, of Transylvanian origin, living in Israel since childhood. I speak English (no, really), Hungarian (great language!), and Hebrew (if I must, which is often, for some reason).

Afflicted with an uncontrollable sense of humor and other highly controversial characteristics.

I learned chess as a child, but had no further opportunities to practice the game. Returned to it seriously around 2004, and have been hanging out here since.

Note: if I am not home (i.e., here), you can probably find me at the Domdaniel chessforum, the SwitchingQuylthulg chessforum, the visayanbraindoctor chessforum, or the chessforum! :)


<My City of Moscow skits:>

<<<<<<>>>>> Kramnik's Party -> City of Moscow (kibitz #752)

<<<<<<>>>>> Sochi 2008: An F-Files Production -> City of Moscow (kibitz #774)


<Game Collection: My GOTD Puns>

<My favorites:>

Y Yu No Claim Repetition? - Yu Yangyi vs M R Venkatesh, 2012 - GOTD Jun-30-12

All Your Baze Are Belong To Us - L Baze vs T Palmer, 2004 - GOTD Mar-21-10


<My other (linkable) site contributions:>

* The Player Names Pronunciation Project: (or look for names with a loudspeaker icon in the Player Directory)

* Created on my suggestion: Biographer Bistro

* The first (now retired) Carlsen Dancing Rook:

* The Caruana Dancing Rook:

* The Hou Dancing Rook:


<<<<<<< MAJOR CHESS SITES <<>>>>>>>>>

<< Correspondence chess <<<<<<>>>>>>>>

< ChessWorld ->

ChessWorld is my new main chess playing base. It's a rather restrictive site for non-paying members, but one of the best sites for paying members. The full features include excellent interface options and first class study and analysis resources. Nice community, likeable admin. Paid membership recommended.

< Update: while I will leave the original entry for ChessWorld as-is, I have by now been a member of the site for 2 years, and am now an admin there. I still think the site is one of the best, and the <other> admins are nice. :p >

My ChessWorld profile:

< Queen Alice ->

Queen Alice is a charming site - well behaved players, decent admin, site design visually very pleasant. It is also completely free. Unfortunately, it lacks team play, the interface and resources are relatively simple, and it can be frustratingly slow (loading times). Nevertheless warmly recommended.

My QueenAlice profile:

< GameKnot ->

GameKnot is technically an excellent site, however I would not recommend it to the serious player who is looking for a site to settle in, due to an anti$ocial admin with ju$t one $ingle intere$t in hi$ $ite... oop$, $orry about the typo$.

My GameKnot profile:

<< Other chess sites <<<<<<>>>>>>>>

< FICS - the Free Internet Chess Server ->

FICS is a great site to play chess at various faster time controls. There are a few difficulties getting started with it - first, it can be hard to find an email they will accept for registration; and second, there's a lot of site code to learn. But it's worth the hassle. :)

< ChessCube ->

ChessCube is quite good for fast time control games - provided you have a strong computer with broadband, as the site is entirely Flash based, which means it takes considerable computer resources to load. The site is nominally free, but heavily commercialized with all sorts of frills that can be purchased on it.

< Emrald Chess Tactics Server ->

Emrald is not a playing site - it is an invaluable tactical training asset. The only problem with it is also the difficulty of finding an "acceptable" email address to register with; but once past that hurdle, the site deserves nothing but praise.

It's a completely free site. You can play (practice) there as a guest, but they recommend registering, so that their program can keep track of your progress, in order to assign you puzzles best suited to your current level. I strongly second that recommendation. Register and always play logged in! It will make a huge difference in the site's ability to help you improve. An issue that scares some people off Emrald is that your progress is tracked via a "rating system", and because of the high importance they assign to speed, if you are not used to finding tactics fast, your rating will be very low at first - and many people are simply embarrassed to play logged in for that reason. Don't let it bother you! If you let embarrassment hold you back from letting the site help you improve to the best of its ability, you are only shooting yourself in the foot, and nobody else really cares that much anyway. ;p

A few of the people I've recommended Emrald to, had dropped it after a brief trial with remarks along the lines of "Oh, it's a blitz training site. I don't play blitz, so I don't like their obsession with speed." That reaction is absolutely wrong - and it's also one that many people who try the site out for only a short time are likely to have, if only because players who are used to being rated, say, 2000 and above, at corr. chess sites, are going to be annoyed and put on the defensive about finding themselves rated as low as 1200-1300 at Emrald, and will wish to dismiss the "insulting" site.

Yes, the Emrald rating system is heavily influenced by speed. But thinking that the site's purpose is blitz training is a complete misunderstanding of the lesson taught. The real purpose of Emrald practice is not to improve your blitz skills, but to train you to recognize dozens of tactical themes and opportunities AT A GLANCE - which will not only save you time in games of any time control, but is often the only way you will catch them AT ALL. Those brilliant tactical shots that can be seen in anyone's collection of "most memorable games", are often moves that will either occur to you as soon as you glance at the position, or you will miss them altogether. That's what Emrald really teaches - tactical chess intuition.

<Intuition in chess can be defined as the first move that comes to mind when you see a position. --- <Viswanathan Anand>>

<Personally, I am of the view that if a strong master does not see such a threat at once he will not notice it, even if he analyses the position for twenty or thirty minutes. --- <Tigran Petrosian >>


^ TL;DR.

Any other questions, feel free to ask. I might even answer. ;p

>> Click here to see Annie K.'s game collections. Full Member

   Annie K. has kibitzed 7124 times to chessgames   [more...]
   Mar-19-17 chessforum (replies)
Annie K.: Hmm, maybe they actually *are* - in order to be consistent with classics that got it wrong. Or is there (or was there in the early days of film) a horizontal flip effect?
   Feb-25-17 Chessgames Bookie chessforum (replies)
Annie K.: No mistake. :) Swiercz played Sunilduth Lyna Narayanan in Round 4 of this year's Aeroflot. His upcoming Round 6 game is against Narayanan Srinath.
   Feb-22-17 WannaBe chessforum (replies)
Annie K.: Heh, no hurry! Thanks. :)
   Feb-20-17 WinKing chessforum
   Feb-14-17 Alekhine vs A Love, 1923 (replies)
Annie K.: <RandomVisitor: <Love conquers "Al".>> We have a winner! :)
   Feb-13-17 Daniel Freeman (replies)
Annie K.: Happy Birthday! :)
   Feb-08-17 Annie K. chessforum (replies)
Annie K.: Thanks, <WannaBe & coworker> and <Hanh>! The audio is up now. :)
   Feb-06-17 T Dowden vs S Yee, 2016 (replies)
Annie K.: More like Yee-Huh? ;p
   Feb-05-17 Women's World Championship (2017) (replies)
Annie K.: Well, mostly because I haven't found it yet. ;) Updated now, but I'm keeping the Wiki article too, because it has the pairings tree right on the page, whereas FIDE's pairings tree has to be downloaded. I appreciate anything you dig up, so keep the suggestions coming whenever you ...
   Jan-27-17 W So vs Wei Yi, 2017 (replies)
Annie K.: Future GotD title: So Me the Wei ;p
(replies) indicates a reply to the comment.

Procrastinators' Club (planned)

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 255 OF 255 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Premium Chessgames Member
  Annie K.: Thanks, <WannaBe & coworker> and <Hanh>! The audio is up now. :)
Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: <Chapter 3. Fly Us to Fire Star>

There was a mild uproar for the next several seconds before Oisa took the floor.

‘Lili, what were the specific terms of our grounding?’

Lili placed a thumb and forefinger beneath her chin thoughtfully. ‘Duwa told me: All members of the Order of the Sun and Sky, including you since you carry their Seal, are not to be seen in public by anyone outside your ship in Tera until we say otherwise.’ She suddenly perked up. ‘Uh oh, anyone thinking what I’m thinking?’

Bodhi nodded sagely. ‘Yes a loophole. We can go to Fire Star. It’s not Tera.’

‘Fire star?’ Sukola asked.

‘One of the old Sayabi terms for Ares.’

Elam shook his head. ‘How in Tera are you supposed to do that? Fly?

‘Yes,’ Bodhi assented.

Elam stared at her uncomprehendingly.

Aya decided to do some explaining. In a soft voice she said, ‘Not the other avatars, only us the Arch Wings, pangga dear. In some of our Aspects, we are particularly hard to kill. We can withstand the blast of a nuclear bomb; going off into space is nothing. We don’t need to metabolize as humans do, and can live off our body’s dark energy reserves without breathing oxygen. Our wings are a kind of Tela increment drive that works even more effectively in a vacuum. It shifts reality around us in a specific manner so that from here we are suddenly there in zero time. We can get to Ares, provided we have enough dark energy fuel, in just a few minutes. Probably less than that if we go as fast as we can, but we try avoiding that because going too fast may play havoc with the rules of causality. I cannot recall a time in this reincarnation when we traveled faster than light; our programming resists it.’

Tala was staring at her flabbergasted. ‘Traveling faster than light means going backward in time. Are you some sort of goddess?’

Bantay raised an eyebrow, ‘In some pre-Shift cultures, beings like the Arch Wings were considered precisely that. We Veteran avatars know better. Aya is forever just a kind hearted girl trying to be a nurse.’

‘You mean a nurse and a doctor. I was into medical school in the Dark War when the De-occurrence occurred.’

‘Yes but you first studied to be a nurse and shifted courses later.’

Lili interrupted them, breaking up another avatar debate. ‘OK, I recommend that you four Arch Wings do it. Investigate that Ares coliseum. Try to keep out of sight of humans. No one needs to know.’

‘Great, we go now,’ Oisa declared. ‘Boylo, better give us some of your Bugu coins from the Shield’s reactor plant. I’m still full from all the darklings we killed in the Defense of the Tower from Lima’s hordes, but we might as well bring additional fuel in case we need to expend energy in an emergency. Let’s change into our space suits.’

‘Right,’ Boylo concurred. He got up from his table and headed for an eletrain parked outside the café’s glass windows. Oisa, Bodhi, Aya, and Alwana jumped out after him into open air and flew for the Shield’s central Tower where their mezzanine quarters were.

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: The four Arch Wings were back in 30 minutes. They had changed into black tight suits with large belts sporting various pockets bulging with miscellaneous equipment. Sewn on the back of each suit was a large bag-like packet.

‘It’s made from carbon composite materials dear,’ Alwana explained to Elam before he could ask. ‘Father prepared it in case we get into a situation where we need to fly into outer space and carry things with us. He had us fly above Tera’s thermosphere several times in practice sessions in these suits. In our pockets are custom made vacuum poof videocams and other equipment that father deemed might be necessary in scientific expeditions. The entire suit and all its pockets and equipment can be folded into the knapsack at its back. In this mission we’ll fill them mostly with Bugu coins.’

Shortly after Boylo arrived in an eletrain with a large duffle bag full of Bugu coins.

‘It was nice of the Veiled Commission to give us a one billion peso award for saving them from Lima. Now we don’t have problems with money or avatar food. This bag here is worth 300 million pesos of especially minted rare hundred thousand peso coins. Here you go, hope you don’t get too hungry,’ he said, handing it over to Oisa. She distributed the Bugu coins among the other Wings, and they stuffed them into their suits’ pockets. Each one was marked ‘hundred thousand pesos’ on the obverse side; while the reverse side showed ‘Veiled Commission 450 D.O.’

‘If we do get hungry, pity the first darkling we encounter,’ Oisa grinned evilly.

‘So you just go off?’ Tala asked. ‘No goodbye speech?’

‘Don’t worry,’ Aya answered. ‘Nothing can harm us, barring an Emperor of the Night, or one of the gods of legend, if they even exist, or another Arch Wing, and there isn’t any other in Tera obviously. We fly up 90 kilometers into Tera’s mesosphere, above any noctilucent cloud, where we can have a good sighting of Fire Star. Then we fly toward it at near light speed. We’ve checked out its present position in the sky in the Alogostani College of Astronomy website.’

‘Yeah, which means we can save the goodbyes since we’ll be back shortly. I can’t wait to see what happened to Pana,’ Alwana stated. She abruptly jumped out of an open window and flew straight up. The other Wings followed.

‘Now what?’ Sukola asked.

‘Now we wait, Lili answered. ‘We don’t have the power or equipment to communicate with them. Luto could you serve us more tea?’

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: <Chapter 4. Conference in the Stratosphere>

The four Arch Wings were in Tera’s stratosphere when Oisa stopped.

‘This is the last time we can communicate by sound, which we won’t be able to do in thinner air, unless we use dark-powered voice, which wastes energy. When we reach the mesosphere above the last noctilucent cloud, Fire Star should be a red object somewhere there.’ She pointed up at a portion of the sky.

‘Yes, we checked out its position in our mezzanine computer when we put on our suits,’ Bodhi reminded her. ‘What’s in your mind, Oisa?’

‘Didn’t you feel disruptions in the Tela when you were in your Haloed Aspect in Lima’s Dark Realm? I did in my Black Aspect.’

‘Yes, but that’s natural, considering the amount of dark energy that was being released when I was slaying thousands of darklings. The Tela usually just stabilizes again.’

‘Not if a Sorceress of Lima’s caliber was also throwing in powerful Spells left and right. Last time a Demon Empress acted that way that I can recall during the Great Dark War, portals opened and realities shifted. Sometimes the Spells feed off all the free dark energy and unexpected results may occur.’

‘What are you saying Oisa?’ Aya asked.

‘You heard the reporter. The cavern and coliseum have different oxygen isotope ratios from that of Ares. The whole package must have been wrenched from some other realm. Perhaps its creation was affected by or even a byproduct of our recent Mission Dark Realm. Why else would a statue of Pana, who disappeared in that mission, be there?’

‘That coliseum must have been there for hundreds of years,’ Alwana pointed out.

‘Yes, but when did time matter when big reality shifts are occurring? Causality and temporal sequences go haywire. Radiometric studies could show it has been there since the Solar System first formed four and a half billion years ago, even if it ‘really’ just appeared last week after our Mission. The MDEs in Ares don’t know about our Mission, and will assume it’s a safe structure that has been there since the Great Dark Shift 450 years ago. In fact the entities behind the portal may still be active if it was only recently made, and can repair the damage fast. You saw the statues. There were darklings among them.’

‘If there are active darklings within the area, we would sense them once we get there,’ Aya pointed out.

‘Ah but they’ll sense us too, and jump back into the portal and warn the others,’ Bodhi noted. ‘I suggest a more prudent approach.’

‘You mean, Deceptively Disguise ourselves as miners or tourists? We would be vulnerable then, like any human,’ Aya said.

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: ‘Miners and scientists have been going in and out of that coliseum for at least a week, as far as I can tell from Pulangbato’s narrative, which is logical if they have had time to collect samples and do isotope and radiometric studies in their high tech labs in the colony. If it’s safe for them, it’s safe for us. If there are darklings in there, they’ve chosen to keep quiet and hidden,’ Oisa opined.

‘So that’s why you insisted on bringing dresses in our knapsacks and why we’re having this secret conference here, when we’re already on our way,’ Alwana observed, smiling slyly. ‘You didn’t want Lili to object. You could overrule her of course since you hold a Binding Compulsion on her, but avatars are also programmed to please the holders of their Seals as much as possible. She takes this WDF grounding matter seriously, and would rather have us remain completely invisible.’

‘So do we, but this is an opportunity to learn what happened to Pana, maybe recover her. So we slide under the rules. If we are successful, we can approach the coliseum as humans without sounding any darkling alarm, and keep the whole thing secret from the WDF. Anyway if we’re caught, we just say, Commissioner Duwa ordered us grounded in Tera, not in Ares.’

‘So we just walk in the colony, and book a ten million peso trip each to the Mysterious Coliseum?’ Alwana asked.

‘Yes. In order to lure in more tourists, the Dako Conglomerate doesn’t do id checks in luxury tours, as long as you have the money to pay for it. That Pulangbato reporter explained it while you were explaining the electrolysis industry to Elam,’ Oisa reminded her.

‘Well, each of us is loaded with millions of pesos worth of Boylo’s Bugu coins. But how do we walk into the colony from outer space?’ Aya asked.

Oisa looked stumped. ‘I don’t know. I figured there must be a way in. There are twenty thousand adult people, plus their children, in the Residential Centrifuges, the Space Elevator, and the Agro-industrial complexes at the Base of the Elevator all within a single roof so to speak. Everything there is connected and sealed off against vacuum or the toxic atmosphere. Once we get in one of the doors, we should not have trouble blending in. If someone asks, we simply say we lost or forgot our IDs. I don’t expect anyone will ask, since the whole colony resembles a self-sufficient small city, and who asks you for an ID in a Teran city, unless you’re going off to restricted areas with the no id no entry signs.’

‘We’ll walk in one of the factories of the Agro-industrial complex,’ Bodhi suggested. From documentary videos I’ve watched, trucks loaded with all kinds of raw materials keep on entering and exiting them. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of security at all. We do the flash and hide routine. Move at almost the speed of sound to a sheltered area, scope out the environment; move again to the next cover. No one should be able to see us until we get to the areas more frequented by tourists.’

‘We also can’t use tabcoms, as using them might identify us,’ Alwana reminded them. ‘However, we should inform the other Sun and Sky avatars and Lili of this change in plans once we get there. We’ll have to find a patron to do it for us.’

‘Fine with me,’ Oisa agreed. ‘Let’s go then.’

The four Arch Wings resumed flying, corn-colored hair flowing on matte black suits. Tera fell below them into a contoured splash of continental green on azure seas topped by white feathered clouds. Above them opened the black palette of the Universe sprinkled by yellow and blue stars. A red planet was visible just where their computer predicted it to be. They ascended toward Fire Star through the cold vacuum of space on wings of gold.

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: <Chapter 5. Entering Through the Colony Factories>

Flying near light speed it took the Arch Wings only 15 minutes to reach Ares, and much shorter from their own perspective, thanks to relativistic effects. They approached the planet below the colony’s horizon, as not to be detected. The planet’s surface loomed like red carpet capped on one end with white polar ice, the icecaps disappearing as they dropped to ground level.

‘Can you hear me?’ Oisa peeped.

‘Only weakly; the air’s too thin,’ Aya piped back.

‘I’m going to speak in dark-powered voice,’ Bodhi announced. ‘Bet you can hear me now.’

‘Yes we can,’ the other three chorused.

‘It wastes our bodily stores of dark energy, but I think we need to communicate this way until we get into the colony. Damn! I wonder what Lili would say if we got stranded here because we ran out of energy. Our Order would have to shell out another ten million pesos for each of us to get back to Tera; and with our little trip exposed, we might get in trouble with the WDF.’

‘No need to fret, Alwana,’ Aya said. ‘We move just above ground level at speeds invisible to the human eye.’

The Wings flew toward the equator. Ares rocks and dust seemed to flow below them like rusted lava. Ahead of them the Ares Space Elevator appeared as a giant needle reaching for the heavens. The ground sloped up and then leveled off into a broad plateau. Abruptly they stopped in midair. Visible below them was a sea of transparent plastic intermittently dotted with opaque domes and cones.

‘Those are the plastic-covered farms. The contoured buildings are the factories and depots. We’re at the edge of the colony,’ Aya noted.

‘We’re in luck.’ Alwana was pointing to one of the domes. ‘My dark-powered vision sees small trucks going in and out of that depot. It has a large transparent window and I can see inside. There doesn’t seem to be many people inside, but a lot of trucks, vats, and storage tanks.’

It was easier than they expected. The four Arch Wings whisked themselves in at near the speed of sound as a dump truck full of red Ares dust entered a giant airlock. They clung on the underside of the truck. The airlock door behind them closed and the one in front opened. The truck entered the depot. As it was about to dump its load of rocks and dust into one of the vats marked ‘Iron Oxides’ the Wings scooted out underneath the truck and into a small area between a tank and the building’s wall.

There were a few men and women in the depot, busy processing rocks and dust. Various cylindrical corridors led out of the building to other structures in the industrial complex.

‘Teran air, pressure, and temperature here,’ Bodhi whispered. ‘The gravity is only about 40% Teran G, but our avatar bodies automatically compensate when moving. Let’s head toward the direction of the space elevator. From the documentary videos of this place that I have seen, there’s an area there called the Elevator’s Base or more commonly the Circular Concourse that resembles a small urban town that winds around the space elevator’s foot.’

Not knowing the proper way into the tourist areas, the four avatars played their flash and hide game, always choosing the corridors that seemed to lead toward the elevator area. It was easy for them to do considering that they could move so rapidly as to be rendered invisible to the human eye. The depots, processing plants, and factories they passed also were cluttered by all sorts of structures behind which they could temporarily hide.

‘This place is huge,’ Alwana observed. ‘It must be kilometers to the space elevator. Are we sure we’re not going around in circles?’

They finally came upon a group of about 50 people inside a dome that sported a huge signboard declaring ‘Methane and Graphite Factory’. They were obviously tourists by the way they gawked at the equipment. A tour guide was explaining things to them.

‘Let’s join this group,’ Aya suggested. ‘There are teenagers in it. We can blend in.’

Hidden behind some utility pipes, the four avatars removed whole dresses from the large packet on their suits’ backs that functioned as an expandable knapsack. They quickly stripped off their suits and got into the dresses. Then each folded her suit into its knapsack.

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: The tour guide was busy lecturing.

‘In this factory, pure carbon dioxide is pumped in from the distillation plant that we came from in that yellow pipe. Water is electrolyzed in that machine over there into hydrogen and oxygen. The O2 from the anode is released into our air. Hydrogen from the cathode is mixed with CO2 in that large box in the center of the building, and heated over a ruthenium catalyst to 400 centigrade. The hydrogen chemically reduces the CO2 and out comes methane and water vapor in that violet pipe over there. It goes to the condenser machine where the water is recovered as a liquid, leaving behind pure methane.’

‘The methane is transported to the petrochemical factory we toured yesterday via those red pipes and converted into all sorts of useful chemicals. Alternatively, it can also be pyrolyzed in that tank over there into hydrogen and pure carbon graphite. The hydrogen is recycled. Thus, the net result is that CO2 is combined with H to produce H2O and carbon, although there are other factories that do this directly at a higher temperature without passing through the production of methane and its pyrolysis. If you electrolyze the resulting H2O, the final equation boils down to decomposing CO2 into oxygen and carbon. Carbon is at a premium nowadays because it’s being used to construct the two other space elevators; and the vital oxygen that you now breathe comes from factories such as this.’

‘What about those oxide electrolysis plants we’re going to tomorrow?’ A tourist was raising her hand. ‘Don’t they produce oxygen too?’

‘Yes. They essentially convert iron, aluminum, magnesium, sodium, potassium, and calcium oxides taken from Aresian rocks and dust into their pure metal forms and oxygen. This is difficult to do with pre-Shift technology because these strongly electropositive elements stick tightly to oxygen, so they’re supervised by settler MDEs using dark AIs.’

‘Since air with too much oxygen becomes a fire hazard, most of the oxygen in the electrolytic factories are actually channeled from the anodes into storage tanks, through those green pipes you see. It’s released intermittently in the ventilation systems of the colony to keep the air at 19% to 23% O2. The carbon dioxide you breathe out is scrubbed out of the air by monoethanolamine and other alkylamines in air treatment domes, and recycled for use in methane and graphite factories.’

As the tourists exited the methane and graphite factory into a corridor, the four avatars joined them, knapsacks on their backs. The corridor led into a large road. There was a hybrid Bugu and hydrogen powered electric bus waiting for the group. The avatars boarded the bus with the tourists, choosing to enter the back entrance away from the tour guide who entered in front. They now looked like four teenage girls in senior high school. The tourists near them glanced at them but no one questioned them. The avatars took their seats at the single backmost row, Bodhi at the right window, Alwana at the center, Oisa and Aya in between. Most of the tourists were talking excitedly about their trip, and in the murmuring crowd the four Archs were silent fishes.

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: The Ares road was set in a large cylinder composed of glass and plastic walls and a steel and lead roof. This allowed people inside to view the surroundings while shielding them from the Sun’s radiation through the thin Ares air. Their bus’ windows were down, so it was evident that the road-cylinder was pressurized with Teran type air. Various structures were visible adjacent to the road. Farms enclosed in kilometer wide transparent plastic grew corn and other food crops genetically adapted to Ares conditions.

The tour guide stood up and waved at the farms. ‘We’re going to the farms tomorrow. Various food crops are being grown there. Human waste, Aresian dust, and imported Teran bacteria were admixed in order to produce the first soils, but once the plants started growing, their dead parts began to integrate with the soil, forming humus. The farms soon were producing their own humus laden soils. As of now, you can see that they are totally enclosed by plastic, which protects them from freezing in the cold and thin Ares air. However, experiments are ongoing, aiming to genetically alter the plants by DNA splicing and selective breeding in order to enable them to eventually live in the Ares outdoors. They are constantly being genetically modified.’

They passed buildings shaped like big domes and cones- the processing plants and factories of the agro-industrial complex. All these were connected by transport road-cylinders, some of which were connected to the one their bus was traveling in. Occasionally they passed not only other electric powered vehicles but also pedestrians on the roadside going to or coming out of the farms and industrial buildings.

A middle-aged green-haired man sporting diamond-set rings and gold earrings and necklace had taken his seat on the left side of the back row, opposite the avatars. He glanced at them. Alwana smiled at him coquettishly.

Encouraged, the man tried to start a conversation. ‘Hi, you’re new to our group, aren’t you? Are you on your own? Do you have relatives with you?’

‘We’re sisters. Our Father has passed away. His businesses have left us with some money and we’re touring on our own,’ Alwana answered nonchalantly. ‘Do you know where to register for the luxury tour to the Mysterious Coliseum?’

‘Sure, there’s a ticketing office near the bus terminal in the Circular Concourse at the base of the space elevator. I can accompany you there if you want. So you’re on your own? You’re too pretty to be alone, you know.’

‘You find me pretty? You must be a rich businessman on a recreational tour aren’t you?’

‘Well, now that you say it, I do own some businesses establishments here.’

‘Wow! That’s so cool. Can you radio Tera from your establishments? We would like to speak with our relatives back in Tera, you know.’

‘Sure, why not? You could come with me once we reach the Circular Concourse.’

‘May I sit beside you?’ Alwana proposed straightforwardly.

The businessman looked surprised. ‘Sure.’

Alwana slid over next to him. Soon she was snuggling and giggling at the stranger’s poor attempts at jokes.

‘What a slut,’ Oisa grimaced.

‘Or a predator of gullible males,’ Bodhi dissented.

‘She’s playacting. Combat avatars aren’t programmed to be sluts or predators of male suckers,’ Aya quietly disagreed, keeping her voice down as not to be overheard by Alwana’s partner.

‘Except on a mission, usually in order to glean info, and I think that’s what Alwana is up to,’ Bodhi mentioned. ‘It’s a specialty of Tahum, Ihap, and poor missing Pana when they’re on infiltration missions. Alwana is the best of us Wings in this genre. We three are no good at it, except maybe Aya; since by acting in her usual gentle manner, she often looks like the hapless maiden waiting for aggressive bitchy butches and predatory male maniacs.’

The gentle hapless maiden bristled. ‘I am not!’ The rest of the trip was spent with Aya and Bodhi arguing, Alwana flirting, and Oisa watching them with boredom and the Ares scenery with fascination.

Premium Chessgames Member
  WinKing: <Annie K.: The hiatus between legs will have to be pretty short, if we don't want to miss too much of two interesting events - GRENKE and Zurich (this year also called Korchnoi Memorial).

Both apparently start on April 13, so you may have to miss the first round or two (depending on how long Daniel will want to keep the Championship results on display), and with only in-play winner bets (where feasible).>

I was just thinking about that today <Annie K.>. Whenever Daniel wants to start the Spring Leg I'll be ready to go. Hopefully he already has in mind when he wants to start the new leg. I have a feeling we will miss the first few rounds though.

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: <Chapter 6. Up the Ares Space Elevator 1>

They traveled through the enclosed road and into a large structure that resembled the Shield’s main hallway; although it was much bigger and circled around the base of the space elevator. It was like any other urban area, with people and vehicles going about their businesses. The terminal inside the Elevator’s Base looked like any other in Tera, with buses parked around a main building that contained ticketing offices, eateries, and a couple of small hotels.

The tour guide stood up in front of the bus before they disembarked. ‘We meet again tomorrow same time in this terminal. I hope you enjoyed the tour. May I remind everyone that private luxury tours of the agro-industrial complex are also available for a mere extra ten thousand pesos.’

‘Where’s the ticketing office to the Mysterious Coliseum.’ Alwana asked, as the passengers stood up. Her new friend’s arm was around her waist, preventing her from getting up.

‘It’s right beside the hotel and eatery that I told you about. I actually own the majority of stocks there, so you and your sisters may have dinner for free.’

‘That’s so cool. I thought the Dalokistanis own everything here.’

‘I’m actually Dalokistani myself, but we don’t own everything, and not all of us are directly affiliated with the Dako Conglomerate. The whole colony is like a giant commercial mall, owned by the Conglomerate. Most of the business establishments are like the shops within a mall, private enterprises that pay a rent or percentage to the Conglomerate. Most of the Residential Centrifuges are likewise leased by the Conglomerate to National Governments or billionaires. The whole territory is nominally under the jurisdiction of the World Defense Force, as is the entire Ares and Tera. Ares ground itself outside the colony’s zone is regarded as international WDF territory.’

They got down from the bus, and entered a small hotel whose ground floor doubled as a restaurant. ‘There’s the Coliseum ticketing office.’ The man pointed to a small two story building beside the restaurant.

‘OK let’s go buy tickets,’ Oisa stated.

‘I thought you would like to have dinner with me first?’ Mr. Green hair asked Alwana. ‘Or I could show you around my hotel and restaurant.’

Alwana hesitated. ‘Alright, I’ll go with you. I have to call our guardian though in Tera. Can I use your hotel’s communication system?’

‘Sure, you can use it, free of charge.’

Alwana turned to her sisters. ‘Go ahead and buy luxury tickets for the four of us.’ She proceeded to accompany Green Hair into his restaurant and hotel.

‘Notice anything unusual about Alwana’s Prince Charming?’ Bodhi rhetorically asked.

‘Yes, he’s a Hybrid Abomination,’ Aya answered.

‘He’s a yucky libidinous Troll,’ Oisa added.

‘I think that’s why Alwana chose him as her mark. She doesn’t want to hurt a human. If anything goes wrong, there’s nothing in her programming that would prevent her from terminating him,’ Bodhi opined.

‘Since you’re talking about Hybrids, I’ve also spotted a Possessed Maranhig.’ Aya nodded toward a beautiful woman sipping coffee by an outdoor table of a café nearly a block away from them. Pedestrians and vehicles passed around her, as in any normal scenario in a Teran city.

‘We have to do our Deceptive Disguise now,’ Oisa declared. ‘It seems the Ares colony is just like most places in Tera; there are occasional Hybrids and Maranhig around. The Possessed are more sensitive to darkling presence and may sense us as avatars. I mean there must be other avatars around since there are MDEs here that can own them, but why catch unnecessary attention? We’d be hard put answereing questions on who are Maestro is.’

Without more ado, Oisa, Bodhi, and Aya went into a public comfort room in the terminal. Inside the cubicles, they went into auto mode, tapping reserves of dark energy in their bodies.

They exited the comfort room appearing the same outside, but differing inside.

‘Hhmm, I can clearly feel the difference in gravity here, about 40% of Teran G. It’s weird. We’re now practically human. I sure hope we don’t encounter any darkling where we’re going,’ Aya said.

‘It’s necessary for our cover,’ Bodhi reminded her. ‘In any case, we have the ability to voluntarily switch back to our Winged Aspect.’

‘I did not have that ability when I was Possessed,’ Aya reminded her.

‘This is useless worry talk; let’s go buy tickets,’ Oisa announced. ‘Bodhi, better prepare Boylo’s coins.’

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  visayanbraindoctor: They went over to the Coliseum ticketing office. It resembled a bank inside. They proceeded to a cubicle with a table computer marked ‘For Luxury Tourists,’ ignoring the human lines on the counters for economy class.

A middle aged blue-haired lady in blue blazer sat behind the computerized desk, looking at avatars curiously. ‘I am Baligya, of the Coliseum Tours Company, and manager of this ticketing office. You are lucky to have come on time for the first luxury tour of the Mysterious Coliseum. We’re almost sold out.’

‘Yes, we would like to buy tickets,’ Oisa confirmed in Esperanto. ‘Luxury tickets, for four anonymous tourists.’

‘You girls sure look pretty. However, you can’t buy for your parent. She has to show up personally so we can attach her luxury class ticket bracelet on her wrist.’ Since there were three of them, the manager was assuming that the fourth was their mother.

‘The fourth ticket is for our sister.’ Bodhi emptied a purse where she had kept pre-counted Bugu coins worth 40 million pesos.

Baligya raised her eyebrows. She punched a button on her computer table. A sliding door closed the cubicle. She counted the coins, examining each one carefully. Since there were four hundred of them, it took her half an hour. An aide entered and served them tea and cakes.

Finally Baligya turned to them. ‘These are rare hundred thousand peso coins, minted by the Veiled Commission itself with powerful spells for their own special purposes. The computer confirms their authenticity. I am at your service, my ladies. Uh, where is your sister?’

‘She’ll be arriving in a few minutes,’ Bodhi replied nonchalantly.

Baligya punched in a code into the virtual holographic keys of her table computer, and then dropped the coins into a slot. It took a few minutes. From out of another slot, four bracelets popped out.

Baligya proceeded to snap them on the avatars’ wrists. ‘These bracelets are your tickets. Each one emits coded electromagnetic and ultrasound signals that identify you as a luxury tourist of the Coliseum Tours Company. They are non-transferrable; once you unhook them from your wrists, they stop functioning, so keep them on at all times.’

‘Thank you,’ Oisa said, studying her bracelet. ‘Now I guess we’ll just have to wait for our sister.’

‘If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer.’

‘Could you tell us the nicest places to stay in for the night?’ Aya inquired.

‘Why not stay in the Alogostani Centrifuge? As everyone knows, several governments have rented large Residential Centrifuges where their citizens, both settlers and tourists, can feel more comfortable. They sub-lease out pads there to tourists. Your expenses there and anywhere in the Ares colony will be shouldered by the Coliseum Tours Company for up to five million pesos for as long as you stay here. You don’t have to show any ID. You can live in any hotel you want, go to any place in the colony, eat in any restaurant, avail of any service. Your bracelet tickets also doubles as credit cards.’

‘That’s nice. What are the other tourists like?’ Bodhi asked.

‘Mostly politicos, businessmen, and families on tour. Which makes you somewhat unique if I might say, young women by themselves on a tour to Ares.’ Baligya suddenly looked uncomfortable. She switched to Alogostani.

‘I did not mean to pry, as Company protocol forbids me from asking the personal info of luxury clients that prefer being anonymous. I just could not help wonder why you do not have an adult escort. I know that there is no strict legal age in Alogostan; but young people below 18, if they choose to, usually have guardians that may represent them in social transactions and escort them on their travels.’

Bodhi straightened up. ‘How do you know we’re Alogostani citizens?’

‘Oh that. You speak Esperanto with a Far Isles accent, you know. Sayabi, I believe that’s what you Islanders call yourselves.’

Aya smiled. ‘Yes we are. You’re from Mainland Alogostan?’

‘No, I’m from the Offshore Islands. I may have had some Sayabi ancestors, like some people in the Offshores and most in the Eastern Islands. Since you’re Sayabi youngsters, you might know more about these groups that have been promoting Sayabi autonomy. They seem to be composed of young people and have sites and blogs all over the internet. My son and daughter in college joined a Friendme page of a group called Kaluwasan, one of these groups. They say it’s to seek out their ancestral culture, whatever that means.’

Aya glanced at her sisters and decided to change topics in order to maintain their cover. ‘Yes, those groups are having some success, even if only in the internet. We sometimes look at their sites, as probably most Sayabi do now and then. But how did you end up here, from Alogostan?’

The avatars spent 15 more minutes engaging in chitchat with Baligya before Alwana came in. A bracelet was likewise placed on her wrist. After that, the avatars promptly and politely said their goodbyes to Baligya.

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  visayanbraindoctor: ‘You sure took your time,’ Aya told Alwana.

‘What happened? Did that Troll get you pregnant or something? Did you contact our Order?’ Oisa brusquely asked.

Alwana laughed. ‘You know that we can control our pregnancies once we sloughed off our Disguises. But no I did not allow him to get that far; just enough action to make him happy. And me happy too. I did contact my ‘guardian’ Lili. Since electromagnetic communication takes several minutes to reach Tera, our conversation was limited to two exchanges.’

‘Well what did your overprotective ‘guardian’ have to say?’

‘She and the other avatars had already deduced our ‘change of plans’ when we did not return in an hour. Lili simply told me she would have done the same in our position, and bade us to use our best judgment and find Pana.’

The avatars, following public signs, were walking along toward the center of the Circular Concourse, where individual elevators inside the Ares Space Elevator where located. They entered a small building marked with the sign ‘Luxury Internal Elevator.’ It was like entering a five star hotel.

Behind the front desk in the building’s lobby, a handsome man in a suit and tie asked them politely what he could do for them. They apposed their bracelets to his table computer’s interphase pad. A man dressed in a butler’s uniform escorted them to an internal elevator. They entered a cabin that looked like a small hotel room, complete with two beds, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a balcony. Everything in the cabin was wielded to floor or ceiling.

The butler explained the set-up.

‘I’m repeating the lecture on the Ares Space Elevator 1, per protocol, even though I’m sure you must have heard it before. It’s essentially a cable anchored a few kilometers deep into a plain on Ares’ equatorial surface. On this plain is the colony’s agro-industrial complex, on which we are located at present. The Cable acts as a tether between the underground Anchor and a Counterweight off in space. Near the Counterweight, the centrifugal force pulling you away from the planet approximates one Ares G. The point where gravity and the centrifugal force balance is at geostationary orbit. Below geostationary orbit, Ares pulls you down to its surface; above it centrifugal force pulls you up. At the geostationary orbit itself, there is zero gravity. Attached to the Tether are eight paired giant horizontal bars joined by numerous vertical struts. Dozens of Centrifuges, some big and some small, spin horizontally around the struts. The Centrifuges produce one Teran artificial G directed perpendicular to the tether’s axis.’

‘There are scores of internal elevators of various sizes inside the Space Elevator, but this is one of the rare Elevator Cabins, which your luxury status entitles you to use. You may actually reside here for a hundred thousand pesos a day, if you should wish, although since it’s rather small, most tourists choose to reside in the Residential Centrifuges which are at geostationary orbit as explained. By accelerating and decelerating up and down the Space Elevator, a Cabin’s computer is able to simulate 1 G Teran gravity.’

‘The ascent of all internal elevators is automatically regulated by a central computer, in order to keep disruptive tension on the Cable at a minimum. However you may request your Cabin’s computer to increase, decrease, or even stop its rate of ascent or descent. The Space Elevator Central Computer automatically adjusts the velocity of the other elevators and the power supply to compensate for your movements. So you may view the Ares landscape as you climb up to the Residential Centrifuges at your convenience. You can stop your Cabin at any altitude and enjoy the view. You know the drills in light or zero G; every tourist is trained in Tera for that before coming here. If you have any problems, just inform your Communicator avatar.’

The butler bowed to them and exited. A man dressed in a bellhop’s uniform entered. He appeared to be in his 20s, with perfect anime-like features. He made a pinging sound like a bell, and then began to talk like a psych patient with a flat affect.

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  visayanbraindoctor: ‘You sure took your time,’ Aya told Alwana.

‘What happened? Did that Troll get you pregnant or something? Did you contact our Order?’ Oisa brusquely asked.

Alwana laughed. ‘You know that we can control our pregnancies once we sloughed off our Disguises. But no I did not allow him to get that far; just enough action to make him happy. And me happy too. I did contact my ‘guardian’ Lili. Since electromagnetic communication takes several minutes to reach Tera, our conversation was limited to two exchanges.’

‘Well what did your overprotective ‘guardian’ have to say?’

‘She and the other avatars had already deduced our ‘change of plans’ when we did not return in an hour. Lili simply told me she would have done the same in our position, and bade us to use our best judgment and find Pana.’

The avatars, following public signs, were walking along toward the center of the Circular Concourse, where individual elevators inside the Ares Space Elevator where located. They entered a small building marked with the sign ‘Luxury Internal Elevator.’ It was like entering a five star hotel.

Behind the front desk in the building’s lobby, a handsome man in a suit and tie asked them politely what he could do for them. They apposed their bracelets to his table computer’s interphase pad. A man dressed in a butler’s uniform escorted them to an internal elevator. They entered a cabin that looked like a small hotel room, complete with two beds, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a balcony. Everything in the cabin was wielded to floor or ceiling.

The butler explained the set-up.

‘I’m repeating the lecture on the Ares Space Elevator 1, per protocol, even though I’m sure you must have heard it before. It’s essentially a cable anchored a few kilometers deep into a plain on Ares’ equatorial surface. On this plain is the colony’s agro-industrial complex, on which we are located at present. The Cable acts as a tether between the underground Anchor and a Counterweight off in space. Near the Counterweight, the centrifugal force pulling you away from the planet approximates one Ares G. The point where gravity and the centrifugal force balance is at geostationary orbit. Below geostationary orbit, Ares pulls you down to its surface; above it centrifugal force pulls you up. At the geostationary orbit itself, there is zero gravity. Attached to the Tether are eight paired giant horizontal bars. The Bars are joined by numerous vertical struts. Dozens of Centrifuges, some big and some small, spin horizontally around the Struts. The Centrifuges produce one Teran artificial G directed perpendicular to the tether’s axis.’

‘There are scores of internal elevators of various sizes inside the Space Elevator, but this is one of the rare Elevator Cabins, which your luxury status entitles you to use. You may actually reside here for a hundred thousand pesos a day, if you should wish, although since it’s rather small, most tourists choose to reside in the Residential Centrifuges which are at geostationary orbit as explained. By accelerating and decelerating up and down the Space Elevator, a Cabin’s computer is able to simulate 1 G Teran gravity.’

‘The ascent of all internal elevators is automatically regulated by a central computer, in order to keep disruptive tension on the Cable at a minimum. However you may request your Cabin’s computer to increase, decrease, or even stop its rate of ascent or descent. The Space Elevator Central Computer automatically adjusts the velocity of the other elevators and the power supply to compensate for your movements. So you may view the Ares landscape as you climb up to the Residential Centrifuges at your convenience. You can stop your Cabin at any altitude and enjoy the view. You know the drills in light or zero G; every tourist is trained in Tera for that before coming here. If you have any problems, just inform your Communicator avatar.’

The butler bowed to them and exited. A man dressed in a bellhop’s uniform entered. He appeared to be in his 20s, with perfect anime-like features. He made a pinging sound like a bell, and then began to talk like a psych patient with a flat affect.

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  visayanbraindoctor: ‘Good evening. I am Space Elevator 1 Communicator avatar 8. You may call me SE1C8. I will act as your interphase AI with the computers. You may give me your instructions.’

‘Hey, it’s Captain Sugo 101,’ Alwana exclaimed.

Oisa looked at Communicator 8 quizzically. ‘Take us up to the Alogostani Residential Centrifuge as fast as the central computer will allow.’

Communicator 8 touched his palm on the cabin’s table computer’s interphase pad.

The cabin ascended out of the Circular Concourse. It was obvious that they were located at the side of the space elevator, so they could visualize the environment outside though their balcony’s vacuum-proof transparent windows. Above them the sky shone like light through a yellow paper lantern through the dust laden Ares atmosphere. As the elevator accelerated, Ares fell beneath them like the red of a dying siren fading into pink. Dust storms the planet’s surface whirled, rose-colored paint getting stirred. They climbed into the blackness of space.

SE1C8 chimed once more. ‘Since you requested that we move as rapidly as possible, notice our acceleration is adding to the pull of Ares’ gravity. You will experience gravity more than one Teran G. As we approach the midway point between Ares and geostationary orbit, we will begin to decelerate. Gravity will drop to zero, and this Cabin will automatically turn upside down. I shall inform you when it is about to do so, and I recommend that you strap yourselves on your beds or chairs. The deceleration will once again create artificial gravity. At geostationary orbit, gravity once again will decrease to zero. During periods of zero G, if you need to move around, you may make use of the multiple handholds situated on the floor, walls, and ceiling. However, this could prove to be inconvenient for you. Thus before this occurs at geostationary orbit, I suggest that you make your way to that eletrain over there on the cabin’s corner. Strap yourselves on the seats there. It’s a movable cubicle that will take you to a Residential Centrifuge of your choosing where one Teran G is present.’

‘It looks like one of our own eletrains in the Shield,’ Aya remarked.

‘I do not know what you are referring to when you say the Shield.’

‘Are you on auto mode or something?’ Aya joked.

‘I am being me, Madame.’

‘You can’t talk more human?’

‘There are reports of ancient avatars from the Dark War that have a human mode. Dumot avatars may also act human. Avatars that guide tourists have a social mode that allows them to somewhat imitate emotive human behavior. I am not any of these. If you wish to request for one, I have no knowledge where to obtain said avatars.’

Alwana rolled up her eyes. ‘Great. SE1C8, you’re talking robot.’

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  visayanbraindoctor: <Chapter 7. In a Residential Centrifuge>

In the Alogostani Residential Centrifuge, the avatars followed the public signs pointing to the luxury apartments.

Alwana was lecturing. ‘This resembles a pathway that turned on itself and bit its tail. You could walk in a straight line until you reach the spot you started from. The apartments are located on the sides of the pathway. The whole assembly spins, creating artificial gravity of approximately one Teran G. From Ares’ perspective, our bodies are oriented horizontally.’

‘How the heck did we handle the zero G times in the elevator so easily? We did not go through any drill for it,’ Aya asked.

‘We must have had experienced with it in our past lives while in Deceptive Disguise as humans. We seem to have a reflex memory for it,’ Bodhi speculated.

‘Maybe we were humans?’ Aya conjectured.

‘Huo, yes I would love that. I would even make a boyfriend out of Mr. Green Hair Troll, as ugly and paunchy as he is,’ Alwana opined quite seriously. ‘In his private office, he turned out to be quite the romantic.’

Oisa rolled up her eyes.

Occasionally they would encounter other people walking along the Centrifuge Pathway. The avatars spotted a couple of women that had Seals on their wrists, the mark of Maestras. Some of the passersby would stare at the avatars for a few seconds, especially the teenagers. Alwana decided she had enough of it and walked up to a boy of about fourteen that was gawking at them.

‘Why are you looking at us?’ she directly asked, in Esperanto.

‘Uh, I’m not sure,’ he stammered in Alogostani.

‘Well you’re obviously Alogostani. Please answer the question. We share the same citizenship, and I promise I won’t bite.’ Alwana now also spoke Alogostani.

‘It’s because you’re so uh.. beautiful,’ the teenager finally gushed out. ‘You look like the coliseum beauty, goddess of gladiators.’

The avatars looked at each other.

‘Have you gone to the coliseum?’ Aya asked.

Now that he had an opportunity to talk, the boy commenced doing so like a gun on automatic. ‘No. I’ve seen only pictures of it. The coliseum tours began three days ago, but only for settlers. It was opened to tourists (that is non-permanent residents) just today; after the Coliseum Tours Company was doubly sure it was safe. Hover jets go there every hour. The Dako Conglomerate keeps on sticking to Teran time schedules but luckily the Ares day is just about 30 minutes longer than Tera’s, so we can easily keep up with Teran time. Every 6 hours an especially large hover jet is scheduled to go there for the luxury tour. It doesn’t matter what time because it’s summer and the sun is always up in the north pole. I want to go, but we can’t afford it. My parents spent all their savings to settle on Ares. We’ve been residing here in the Alogostani Residential Centrifuge for 1.9 Teran years already, which is slightly more than one Ares year. Only rich government officials and businessmen can pay for the Coliseum tour, like Senators Hampang, Naluoy, or Tiaw whose suites are next to our cabin-apartment. I plan to apply for work in the Coliseum Tours Company, so I’ll be able to see it myself for free.’

‘Senator Naluoy from Tubo Island?’

‘Yes. You’re tourists aren’t you? An economy apartment for tourists costs fifty thousand pesos per day to rent. As settlers, we have ours for free, following the MOA between the Dako Conglomerate and all Centrifuge leasers, along with food stamps, but my parents have to work for the Conglomerate all Teran year long except for a 60 day leave. Even on those days, they spend their time on part time jobs for other companies here that actually pay you Bugu coins. They’re off to work right now in one of the new space elevators under construction. I’ve heard it can sometimes be dangerous, but fortunately avatars do most of the work in the risky places. The resident MDEs that provide for these worker avatars get higher pay and more privileges.’

‘Why not just use avatars as workers all the way?’ Aya asked.

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  visayanbraindoctor: ‘Oh, it’s that WDF rule that any job that can be done by humans should not be usurped by avatars, so that we people would still have work. I like the rule. It takes some of the arrogance out of the MDEs. As it is they are already much too privileged, in my opinion. Like the rich Senators and politicos, they live in suites.’

‘Where is Senator Naluoy’s suite?’ Oisa abruptly asked. ‘I would like to see where he lives.’

‘The suites are adjacent to our permanent apartment. It’s where VIPs and resident MDEs live. I can show you. My name is Puyo by the way.’

The avatars did not introduce themselves following their policy of keeping their identities secret. They followed the teenager into a side corridor marked ‘Suites and Settler Cabins.’ The corridor forked in two.

‘This is my family’s cabin.’ Puyo pointed to the first door to the left. ‘The suites are there.’ He pointed to the right fork. ‘Senator Naluoy’s vacation residence is behind the second door. He’s probably in the Circular Concourse right now though, because I do know from the local grapevine that he’s going to join the 7am Teran time luxury Coliseum Tour. It’s the first luxury tour actually; so many VIPs are joining in.’

‘Thank you, Puyo,’ Oisa said. ‘We better get going.’

‘Don’t you want to see our cabin?’

‘Maybe next time.’ Oisa tapped Puyo’s shoulder in a friendly manner and took off to the right, followed by Bodhi, Aya, and Alwana. The suite room five doors away from Senator Naluoy’s was marked ‘Unoccupied. For Luxury Tourists Only.’ Oisa touched her bracelet on the door’s interphase pad. It slid open.

Puyo was staring at them several doors away. ‘Wow! I did not know you were luxury tourists.’ Alwana waved at him as they entered the suite. The door automatically slid shut after them.

It was indeed a suite - carpeted floors, chandeliers, large beds, bathrooms, kitchens, gym, study rooms, dressing rooms with an array of clothes from which they could choose the appropriate proper sizes, and even a small swimming pool. The left windows showed the red surface of Ares; the right windows the blackness of space.

‘Do you know that Senator Naluoy was the one that initiated the planned Senate Hearing on Devolvement, upon the recommendation letters of orgs such as Kaluwasan and our own Order of the Sun and Sky?’ Aya asked rhetorically.

‘Yes,’ Oisa replied. ‘We all do. Fortunately we will get to see him in the 7am tour. He is a man important for our cause after all. Now I have to go to the bathroom. Nice thing that there are four of them in this suite.’

Alawana ignored their talk. She walked up to the swimming pool and stripped down to her underwear.

‘What are you doing?’ Aya asked her.

‘Taking a dip.’ Alwana jumped into the swimming pool. ‘Don’t any of you want to find out how it feels to go swimming in space?’

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  visayanbraindoctor: <Chapter 8. Avatars in a Hover Jet>

Oisa, Bodhi, Aya, and Alwana went down to the space elevator’s Base Circular Concourse just past midnight so as to be on time for the 7am tour to the North Pole. The journey down was a mirror of their trip up. They started at zero gravity at geostationary orbit in an internal elevator’s luxury cabin, heads down toward Ares and feet facing the stars; and ended at the Base with feet planted on the ground.

They got to the airport by taking a taxi. Oisa apposed her bracelet to the driver’s control panel interphase for their payment. He proceeded to take them to periphery of the Base where the airport was located. At a front desk, they again presented their bracelets for scanning.

‘Welcome Stars 1, 2, 3, and 4,’ the company officer greeted them.

‘What stars?’ Alwana queried.

‘Your designations, dear clients,’ the officer answered. ‘In the ticketing office, you requested that you preferred being anonymous.’

They were ushered into a private cylindrical airtight walkway, protecting them from Ares’ thin noxious atmosphere and into the runway by another officer. The end of the walkway was attached to a huge hover jet.

Their hovercraft resembled a large double deck business jet with four wings, two on each side at different levels. Four stewardesses met them at the doorway, each sporting a different hair color- red, yellow, green, and blue.

Miss blue greeted them. ‘Welcome to the Coliseum Tours, luxury star class. This aircraft has all the amenities of a five star hotel. We have 20 large private cabins each with its own comfort room in the first deck.

‘In the second deck, we have the recreational lobby,’ Miss green explained. ‘You can go there via two stairways, one near the plane’s front door, one near the backdoor. There is a lounge where the guests can socialize, a computer and game room, a gym, and a bar and restaurant. Our specialist personnel are ready to aid you on their use- a butler, computer technician, Ares gravity trainer, chef, and bartender, and five Communicator avatars.’

They proceeded through a small hallway flanked on either side by cabins, all the way to the rearmost one.

‘This is cabin 20, where you have been assigned, as you were the last to book. As you can see, it’s next to the rear staircase, kitchen, and the backdoor alternative exit. Nevertheless it’s luxuriously identical to the other cabins. This jet is scheduled to take off in 30 minutes. Before then, we will call all guests into the central area for pre-flight instructions.’

Their cabin looked like a typical hotel room. There were four beds, a bathroom and wardrobe, a study table, a refrigerator, and an air conditioner. The avatars hardly had time to settle in when an intercom bleeped.

‘Dear Star guests, you are requested to come to the lobby for your pre-flight instructions.’

They climbed up to the second deck. There were 50 guests in the substantially large lounge, many heavily attired in the accessories of the rich. Most of the crowd looked to be rich entrepreneurs or government officials, and their families; but there also was a group of five stunningly pretty ladies in evening gowns. The avatars recognized Senator Naluoy on a table computer, busy typing. He looked to be around in his 70s, but still brisk and with an aristocratic bearing. They quickly took the next table. Alwana could not resist peeking.

‘Damn, but he’s writing about the Senate Hearing on Devolvement. I thought it was postponed indefinitely because of the war with Hilistan,’ she blurted out in Sinayabi.

Senator Naluoy turned around, looking at her severely. ‘Yes, young lady. Please tone down your voice. There are Hilistanis here you know. Some may understand Alogostani. Good thing I’m sure they don’t understand Sinayabi.’

Oisa looked at him in surprise. ‘You speak Sinayabi!’

‘Yes, iha. I come from an old family in Tubo Island, some of whom still remember who they are in spite of intermarriages with Alogostanis and the national language policy.’

‘That’s great. When is the hearing scheduled?’ Alwana’s follow-up question came immediately.

‘Alwana, don’t be rude,’ Aya admonished. ‘Don’t rush the Senator. You were a war hero in WW3, isn’t that right, Your Honor?’

‘Yes, my dears.’ He was looking at them, puzzled. ‘You’re high school kids or maybe first year college. You speak fluent Sinayabi, but I don’t think it’s Offshore or Eastern Islands accent. It’s similar to Far Islets accent, but not exactly like it.’

The avatars looked at each other, not quite knowing what they could say in order to prevent exposure of their identities. Fortunately, Miss red hair among the stewardesses rescued them by commencing on her pre-flight instructions.

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  visayanbraindoctor: ‘Welcome Star guests. We are now about to fly to the North Pole and see its most famous artifact, the Mysterious Coliseum. All seats in this aircraft have seatbelts as you can observe. Buckle and fasten like so…’ She gave the usual talk and demonstration that everyone had heard before in commercial airplanes.

‘This aircraft is state of the art. Each wing is equipped with three jet engines, one maneuverable to aid in controlling direction, one directed down for hover mode, and one directed backwards for the forward thrust. Our plane is powered by a mix of Bugu generated electricity and jet fuel plus oxygen taken from the Ares colony’s factories. Fuel and liquid oxygen are stored in compartments in the lower fuselage and wings. Take-off and landing can be done in the hover mode so as to minimize the discomfort of acceleration.’

Miss red hair sat down and strapped herself on her seat. As if on cue, the hover jet slowly rose. It climbed out of the airport area, and began flying toward the North with only barely perceptible acceleration. Below them, the plastic-covered farms and factory domes flowed past them. The space elevator turned into a tall needle, receding.

After a while, a bell pinged and the stewardesses stood up. ‘You may now take off your seatbelts. Feel free to explore the facilities of our vehicle, and to socialize with the other guests. If you need any assistance just press on the ‘Aid’ buttons on the walls, chairs, and tables, and one of our personnel will attend to you. We also have a team of five Communicator avatars, ready to aid you interphase with your computers for communications, gaming, and other purposes, if you so request.’

Five females, all with perfect anime-like features stood up and bowed. The four Arch Wings stood up and bowed back at them automatically. Senator Naluoy and some of the other guests looked at the Wings curiously.

‘That would be all for now. Enjoy your voyage, our dear Star guests.’

Normal human conversation immediately resumed in a low buzzing murmur. ‘Can I get you young ladies something to drink?’ Senator Naluoy asked the avatars.

‘Yes, your Honor,’ Bodhi answered diplomatically.

‘Then allow me to join your company.’ Senator Naluoy transferred to an empty seat at their computer table. ‘I would love to ask your names and where you come from, but something tells me you would feel uncomfortable answering those questions. There were four anonymous guests listed for this flight. I guess you’re them.’

He signaled for the butler.

‘What would you have?’


‘Tea for the lovely ladies and myself, please.’ Naluoy motioned at the butler.

Bodhi bowed her head. ‘Thank you. Uhmm, if I may inquire, you seem to be alone?’

‘I’m with my grandniece. She’s over there on that table.’ Naluoy gestured at a table near the front of the lounge, where four teenage girls were grouped around, chatting.

‘As you probably know from the Alogostani press, my wife, children, and grandchildren were all killed in a Unitemple terrorist attack two years ago. I kind of semi-retired, reading up on the history of Alogostan; not the official one in books released by the Department of Education in the school curriculum, but primary sources from the pre-Shift and Dark Shift eras.’

Aya perked up. ‘We have done the same thing, your Honor. The more we read, the more we’ve noticed that our history has been faked in the sense that the point of view is all pro-Tunga City, and purely nationalistic. It turns out that some of the provinces of present-day Alogostan were domains of conquered peoples that have been forcibly acculturated into the Alogostani language. There used to be 160 different non-Alogostani ethno-linguistic peoples. Now only a few remain.’

The Senator was looking at them curiously. ‘You know a lot young lady. Sinayabi is your native tongue, right?

All four avatars nodded.

‘Yet you have a peculiar accent. A non Sayabi would think you speak the dialect of the Far Islets, but another native speaker like me can discern it’s not the same. Do you know that it’s technically illegal for an Alogostani citizen to speak non-Alogostani languages except for Esperanto? You are the first youngsters I have ever heard speaking Sinayabi publicly, except for my grandnephew.’

‘Yes, sir,’ Oisa replied. ‘We don’t care though. The younger generations in the Eastern Islands have shifted to Alogostani. We thought there are no Sayabis anymore in the Offshore Islands. But that stupid ruling doesn’t deter us.’

‘No one reinforces it anyway,’ Bodhi added carefully. ‘There is no point to that law. Sinayabi has become a moribund language in Alogostan.’

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: Naluoy looked at them appraisingly. ‘I’m hoping to change that. Last year my grandnephew and I tried to convince the council of Daan Town in Tubo Island to adopt Sinayabi as an elective language subject. They agreed; but unfortunately they required that I provide for the funds. I could not convince both the Tubo government and the Alogostani Congress to include the subject in the school curriculum. So I ended up shelling for it as an extracurricular subject from my own pocket; about a million pesos a year, for the teachers’ overtime pay and the school materials. My grandnephew wrote the grammar book used by the project himself. Sinayabi was taught to elementary students in the Daan District school for a year.’

‘That’s great news!’ Bodhi exclaimed. ‘It’s well known that the only way to resurrect a dead or new language to a new generation of students is by teaching it in schools. I sure hope it would be included in the school curriculum in the future.’

‘Not really. I had to stop it a few months ago because some of my businesses have recently failed.’

The avatars’ smiles disappeared.

Naluoy tried to assuage them. ‘On the other hand, one of the topics to be discussed in the Senate hearing for Devolvement is the teaching of non-Alogostani languages in schools of provinces that used to speak them, as part of the curriculum in order to help preserve our cultures. It might be difficult because we first have to junk that Alogostani-only law and the bias of the Nationalists for a one-language one-nation ideology. I am encouraging and inviting you to attend it, especially since you represent one of the few of the younger generation that can still speak Sinayabi, and we need support. I shall even recommend that you speak out, if you attend, in behalf of the Sayabi culture.’

‘I hope we won’t have to don old Sayabi costumes and prance around, like what some of the historical societies do,’ Alwana acidly remarked. ‘Clothes and stupid cultural performances don’t make up a people’s ethnic identity. Their language does. No speaker of Sinayabi, no Sayabi people.’

Bodhi nudged Alwana’s foot with her own, subtly telling her to stop talking brusquely. ‘We will surely attend. By the way, can we retire back to our room, Your Honor? We need to freshen up.’

‘Sure, young ladies. I hope I would have the pleasure of talking with you again,’ Naluoy gallantly told them.

Once in cabin 20, Bodhi whirled around to face her sisters.

‘What were you thinking? Senator Naluoy is obviously one heck of an astute social observer. He’s about to deduce who we are, just from our accent! Members of the Sun and Sky are the only ones that speak our dialect of Sinayabi in Tera.’

After a moment of silence, Aya spoke up. ‘You’re right. We should stay here in our cabin for the rest of the trip, and not interact with any of the passengers, if we wish to say anonymous.’

‘Yes. As an aside, what he says about his efforts for our people is good news. After this mission, I think we should help him propagandize that Senate Hearing and attend it ourselves,’ Oisa declared.

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: For the next several hours the avatars watched the monotonous Ares surface through their cabin windows. Wide plains, stupendous mountains higher than Tera’s Himalayas, and huge impact valleys of past bolide hits ran past their aircraft like a rusty stream flowing. Around noon, their cabin’s intercom bleeped.

‘Good afternoon, dear Star guests. Lunch is served in the restaurant on the second deck. If you wish it served in your cabins, feel free to tell us so. We are happy to announce that our luxury food is imported directly from Tera.’

Bodhi punched on the intercom. ‘Please serve it in our cabin. Have the Communicator avatars bring it. We’ll have steamed tanige mackerel, lukon prawn, laswa assorted vegetables, and mango juice.’

After 30 minutes, five avatars came in their room, carrying dishes, plates, and utensils, which they set on a table.

‘We are J-1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. I am J-1,’ one of them announced. ‘We are pleased that you chose us to serve you. No other guest has made such a request.’

‘I’m not surprised,’ Alwana said, biting into her mackerel. ‘Guests prefer humans to serve them.’

‘Do you like your jobs?’ Aya inquired of them.

‘Yes, of course. Avatars exist for programmed purposes,’ J-2 answered. ‘We never exist for ourselves. When we abide by our purpose, we are happy.’

‘You mean you’re programmed to say you are happy when you do your job,’ Bodhi corrected.

‘We are essentially programs written into the Tela by use of the dark arts. I think that should make us think in a different manner from that of ordinary AIs that are written as ones and zeros in electronic digital code,’ J-3 asserted.

‘Therefore inasmuch as we can be conscious, we probably do really enjoy our job,’ J-4 opined.

‘You mean you’re not robots in a Chinese room?’ Alwana asked, digging up a recollection from her mostly deleted past.

‘What’s a Chinese room?’ J-5 asked back.

Bodhi raised her hand. ‘I recall that memory. You place a girl in a room, with a large library. She should be able to answer questions written in slips of paper fed into the room in an unknown language correctly, and just by consulting the library and following its instructions to the letter, even if she can’t understand the language at all. Even if the human girl is replaced by an entity that possesses no self-awareness, it would still be able to answer in a way that passes off as a self-aware human.’

For the rest of the trip, the four Arch Wings discussed the question of self-awareness with avatars that were unaware that the Wings were avatars.

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: <Chapter 9. The Arch Wings are Summoned in the Coliseum>

Over the horizon, the glare of the Northern Polar Ice cap loomed as a brilliant white cape.

Ping! Their cabin’s doorbell chimed. The Communicator avatars promptly fell silent. J-1 stood up. ‘Our dear Star guests, I am Communicator avatar J-1. We are now descending into the Northern Ice Mine area. Your cabin has seatbelts on its wielded-on seats. Although the landing will be as gentle as ever, we recommend that you strap yourselves in. Once we have landed, please proceed to the back of the plane where pressure suits will be distributed to you. The personnel will help you get into them.’

‘Yes, we already know you’re J-1,’ Aya replied. ‘Thank you.’

The hover jet proceeded to land right outside the cavern entrance to the Mysterious Coliseum. The passengers donned on pressure suits and debarked through an airlock at the plane’s rear, accompanied by the stewardesses and several of the crew. The captain and his co-pilot remained in the plane.

The four Archs went down last. The Communicator avatars went along with them.

‘You aren’t wearing pressure suits,’ Aya told them via her suit’s radio.

‘Yes. All Ares avatars are designed for the Ares atmosphere,’ J-5 explained. ‘We can communicate to you by laryngeal microphones implanted in our throats.’

‘I somehow got the idea that you were to remain in the hover jet?’ Alwana asked, a bit surprised.

‘We go with the expedition to the Coliseum; as we are part of the guide personnel. And there’s nothing to do in our jet,’ J-1 explained.

Meanwhile, the tour group entered the cavern’s entrance and descended down a sloping tunnel. Lamps sunk into the walls illuminated their way. Just before reaching the cavern proper, they arrived at an enormous airlock.

Miss green gestured at the airlock. ‘This was installed when it was ascertained that the cavern where the Coliseum is in has no communication to the Ares atmosphere. Our Company has decided to pressurize and oxygenate the whole cavern, so you can view it more comfortably without pressure suits.’

The tour group entered the airlock and exited into the cavern. There was a rack for their pressure suits. They got out of their suits and placed them on the racks.

J-3 pointed at the ground beneath their feet and walls of the cavern. ‘All surfaces in this cavern to a depth of about 4mm is composed of silicate minerals that have a different oxygen isotope ratio from that of ordinary Ares rock.’

‘However, if you dig in anywhere, the ratios become identical to Ares’ isotopic signature once more,’ J-4 added.

They approached the coliseum.

At the front of the group were the five ladies that looked like socialites. Then came a bunch of businessmen types; followed by families with teenagers. In front of them was Senator Naluoy. With him was a teenage girl. Senator Naluoy spotted them, and he and the girl dropped back.

‘Kamusta, how are you young ladies? Let me introduce my grandniece Gamay.’

Gamay bowed. The avatars bowed back, asian style.

‘I can speak a little Sinayabi, thanks to my brother’s tutoring.’ Gamay smiled at them.

‘That would be my grandnephew,’ Naluoy clarified.

‘Who is your grandnephew that still speaks Sinayabi,’ Aya asked curiously. ‘He must have learned it on purpose, since I know of no young native Sayabi speaker in the Offshores.’

Senator Naluoy assumed a cast-down look. ‘His name was Tuman. There had been some family problems, but now that has been resolved just a few days ago. Before that happened, Tuman went missing. We had been in communication though for years, and I do know that he was intent on reviving the Sayabi language and ethnic identity, which is about to die out in my generation in the Offshore. He created an organization for this advocacy. This trip by the way is a gift to my grandniece Gamay; I thought it would cheer her up. We’re still searching for him, but the police are uncooperative as he was in their watch-out-for list as a suspected secessionist.’

The avatars met this news with silent astonishment. They knew exactly what had happened to Tuman. Tala had assassinated him, under DATA orders.

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: Meanwhile, J-5 began elaborating. ‘The coliseum itself possesses the same isotopic signature as the cavern’s surface. Its architecture resembles that of pre-Shift gladiatorial arenas, where human slaves fought to death. Therefore the resident Masters of Dark Energy believe that the whole package was wrenched off a Teran echo somewhere in the multiverse.’

They entered the Coliseum’s arena. J-5 waved her hand at the statues and machines scattered around them. ‘The MDEs believe that these artifacts originated from Telar echoes of denizens and machines from another realm.’

Alwana nudged Aya, whispering softly. ‘Some of these machines resemble cars or trucks, but that one looks like a miniaturized version of our Boat.’

‘See that’s the pentagram portal.’ Gamay was pointing to the darkly glimmering structure on one end of the arena. ‘And that’s the Coliseum Beauty herself!’

They soon reached Pana’s statue. The four Wings stared at it mesmerized.

‘Damn; but it’s still clothed in a stony version of Pana’s micro miniskirt and tube top when we last saw her,’ Alwana whispered to her sisters. ‘It has to be new, and it has got to be a Telar echo of our Pana.’

The Communicator avatars with their sharp hearing overheard her. J-1 shook her head. ‘Are you referring to the so-called Coliseum Beauty? A sample of the rock composing it has been dated to about 450 years. Therefore the MDEs believe it originated during the Great Dark Shift, and whoever this statue represents cannot be your relative.’

‘It has the features of an idealized female,’ J-2 remarked beside them.

‘So do we,’ J-3 commented.

Senator Naluoy smiled at the Archs. ‘And if I may say so, so do you four young ladies. If Tuman is correct, there is only one set of people in the whole of Tera that speaks native Sinayabi with an accent different from the Offshore, Eastern Islands, and Far Islets, although your accent is quite similar to that of the Far Islers and could be mistaken for it by a non-native speaker.’

‘There is?’ Alwana echoed stupidly.

‘Maybe. It’s up for you to tell me about yourselves, in your own good time,’ Naluoy diplomatically said.

The tourists milled about for the next several minutes, breaking into smaller groups to marvel at the other artifacts.

‘We have to transform to our natural Arch Wing form, you know,’ Aya murmured, as Naluoy and Gamay went over to scope out the rest of the Coliseum and its contents. Attached to most of the artifacts were pyramidal shaped objects. ‘We can’t sense anything preternaturally Dark in human Disguise.’

‘We stay behind, as planned,’ Bodhi stated. ‘The Coliseum Tours Company brochure did state that any tourist can stay and explore the Coliseum until the next tour group arrives for an additional ten million pesos, as long as two or more personnel guide us. We request that the Communicator avatars be the ones to stay with us just in case we need to knock out witnesses, which we can’t do if they’re human.’

The avatars went over to one of the stewardesses, who together with the other hover jet personnel were now acting as tour guides. She called in the other personnel. Coins worth 40 million pesos changed hands.

‘At least two guides must be left behind with you, according to Company rules,’ Miss blue hair stewardess declared. ‘You can choose which.’

‘How about Communicators?’

‘Yes of course, they could be your guides if you wish.’

‘Can we all stay?’ J-4 requested. The Communicator avatars had listened in the negotiations.

Miss blue hair shrugged. ‘Fine with me, but not all of you. One of you has to stay with the hover jet on the way back.’

Later the five pretty ladies also approached the stewardesses and seemed to be negotiating for an extended stay, but they eventually exited the Coliseum.

After 45 minutes, Miss yellow hair announced that they had to leave before the next tour group arrived.

‘See you back in the Alogostani Centrifuge.’ Gamay, together with Senator Naluoy, waved at them as their tour group left the Coliseum. Now only the Archs and four Communicator avatars, J-1, J-2, J-3, and J-4 were left.

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: ‘Let me transform first, while you distract our guides,’ Oisa suggested away from the Communicator avatars.

Bodhi, Aya, and Alwana wandered off around the arena, requesting the J’s to come with them, while Oisa went over to the Portal. She went into a trance, sloughing off her Deceptive Disguise.

Suddenly the pyramids began glowing in Oisa’s eyes.

The Communicator avatars quickly turned towards the Portal, and quickly walked up to it, followed by Bodhi, Aya, and Alwana.

‘What is that?’ J-1 inquired. ‘There’s a surge of dark energy. Madame Oisa, you’ve changed. You’re an avatar too?’

Oisa nodded. All the avatars stared at the Portal.

‘We should report this to our Company,’ J-2 asserted.

‘What the hell!’ Oisa exclaimed. ‘Some of these pyramids are advanced dark-powered equivalents of videocams and consoles. They’re programmed to activate in the presence of high Dan darklings, not low Dans or Maestros.’

‘And we are darklings in essence,’ Aya reminded her. ‘Of the highest Dan. No wonder the Ares MDEs couldn’t activate them and thought they were damaged.

‘If I may inquire, could you please explain or elaborate on your statements?’ J-3 politely asked.

‘Maybe later,’ Aya kindly told her.

They were interrupted as five people reentered the Coliseum. They were the bejeweled socialites. They approached the avatars.

J-4 greeted them. ‘Welcome back, star guests. If I may inquire, did the human tour guides give you consent to stay behind?’

One of the ladies answered her. She was speaking Esperanto in a rather aristocratic manner. ‘We have special permits, Communicator, to go anywhere in Ares, if that’s what you’re asking. Your Company knows of course.’

‘If I may respectfully ask, didn’t they provide you with at least two escorts as per Company rules?’ J-1 motioned at the Archs. ‘We are already assigned to these girls.’

‘I convinced them we did not need any.’ The lady turned to the Wings.

‘Hello dears, so you also decided to stay? We were at the outside looking at the Coliseum architect. Different historical styles for each tier, would you say? Let me introduce myself. I am Brillante.’ The lady curtsied.

Oisa bowed Asian style. ‘I am Oisa. You’re Maranhig Possessed. I can feel it. Compeller, basilisk, banshee, naiad, santermo.’

‘That’s right, they informed the Company of that,’ J-2 explained. ‘According to international WDF rules, it’s legal for Possessed and Hybrids to be in Ares, unlike in some Nations in Tera, on the condition they do not employ their powers. If they do, any avatar is mandated to execute them by a law directly promulgated by the Veiled Commission.’

‘We certainly hope you did not use your Dark Compulsion to dissuade the human tour personnel from providing you with escorts?’ J-3 indirectly asked Brillante.

‘We can feel you too,’ another lady told Oisa, ignoring the Communicator avatars. ‘I’m Diamante by the way. Strange but we could not sense you earlier. Combat avatar aren’t you? You feel like one. Where is your Maestra? Your companions look too young to be MDEs.’

‘Secret,’ Oisa smiled at them. She realized that the Maranhig thought that Bodhi, Aya, and Alwana were humans as they still were in Deceptive Disguise, but decided not to inform the newcomers of that fact. ‘You five look like a squad Extraordinaire from the Dark War. And it’s been a long time since I have seen a Compeller. Only High Demon Kings can Make them. May I inquire what your intentions are?’

Brillante sighed. ‘We are going to activate the Portal. We intended to activate them by prepped spells in our diamond stones, but apparently you have already done so inadvertently. If you were all humans I would have Urged you to get out of here and you would have been Compelled to obey, none the wiser. Unfortunately my powers don’t work on creatures with an affinity for the Dark such as darklings and avatars.’

J-4 eyed the ladies. ‘Does the Tours Company know of your intention to activate the Portal?’

‘No,’ Diamante replied. ‘We don’t want any witnesses.’

Brillante added in a matter of fact voice, ‘Therefore, we will have to terminate all of you. The videocams your Company has placed around the Coliseum have been shut off for now by agents of our patrons. So are your communication systems. No one will know.’

J-1 walked in front of them, blocking the five ladies. ‘You must have powerful patrons. But Possessed are no match for avatars. We are Communicators but we can still beat you in a fight. There will be no murder of our clients.’

Diamante the basilisk grinned, teeth sharpening into fangs and head assuming the features of a green-scaled snake. J-2 stepped toward her and crouched in combat position.

The banshee, naiad, and santermo opened their mouths and blasted J-2 with destructive ultrasound waves and spears of ice and fire. She dissipated.

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: Diamante kept on grinning. ‘As noted, we are Extraordinaire, the upgraded version of the Enhanced Possessed, and designed to destroy avatars, you silly Communicators. But there is no need for a fight. We don’t want to fight a combat avatar, like your client Oisa, as we could incur casualties. Fortunately we also have spells that work for all kinds of avatars.’

She touched a diamond on her necklace, as did the other Possessed. The gemstones glowed and shot out rays of white light into Oisa and the J’s. The surviving Communicators promptly stopped moving.

Oisa smiled at the ladies. Wings sprouted out of her back. A flaming doble espada appeared in her left hand. ‘Paralysis spells don’t work on me, my dears. Neither will any of your powers.’

‘An aar.. Arch Wing!’ Brillante stuttered.

As fast as a bee’s buzzing wing, Oisa beheaded the five Possessed. They crumbled into nothing.

‘Pretty old critters, for them to disintegrate so fast,’ Aya observed. ‘And by the Tela, a Compeller? For the humans they were the most feared of all the Possessed, able to take over their will. These were powerful Enhanced, probably survivors of the Dark War. I wonder who hired them?’

The Communicator avatars had begun to move upon the Maranhigs’ termination. ‘We.. have .. to.. report..,’ J-3 lisped out.

‘They’re witnesses too,’ Bodhi noted.

Oisa pleaded to the Communicator avatars. ‘You must know that if you tell on us, the subsequent investigation might harm our Order. I can assure you that we intend no harm to anyone, and no one else needs to die. All you have to do is keep quiet about this.’

J-1 was already moving normally. ‘Perhaps if you tell us what this is all about and we ascertain no one will be harmed, we can delay informing our Company.’

J-4 shook her head. ‘Our programming requires us to inform our Company of peculiar events such as this, that can be detrimental to it.’

J-1 raised up a hand. ‘But it has not been proven that this event is detrimental to our Company. Our conversations with them in the hover jet indicate that they are well-adjusted to human society and value human life. I suggest we wait this out, and go into observe and record mode.’

J-3 and J-4 looked at each other. Almost as one, they shook their heads.

‘I think we better report this anyway, just to make sure,’ J-3 opined.

J-4 nodded in agreement. She and J-3 touched their tabcom’s interphase pad in order to contact their Company.

‘Sorry,’ Oisa apologized. She struck like a cobra with her doble espada. J-3 and J-4’s heads flew off their shoulders. Their decapitated bodies disintegrated.

The coliseum wavered like strings of air plucked on a harp.

‘Dark Shift!’ Bodhi yelled. ‘We’re stuck!’

The Pentagram Portal fell on them.

Abruptly they were in another world; yet somehow it was the same coliseum. It was midafternoon and the sun shone on them bright. The Ares pentagram portal now enclosed them. Around them the darkling statues and huge black-haired humans had come to life. The darklings appeared different from those that invaded Tera, but there was no mistaking what they were. The large humans averaged seven feet tall, made of robust muscle packed in bronze skin. Some of them were decapitating smaller humans, paler of features but well-formed too.

The avatars raised their heads to the tiers.

The Coliseum Beauty looked down at them from her throne-like seat on the audience box above them. ‘It’s them!’ She stood up.

‘You may stop sacrificing the ulipon slaves,’ Pana announced. ‘We have successfully summoned four of the winged goddesses of legend.’

Premium Chessgames Member
  SwitchingQuylthulg: What happens when one player allows the other to take complete control of the center:

[Event "rated blitz match"]
[Site "Free Internet Chess Server"]
[Date "2017.03.21"]
[Round "?"]
[White "NN"]
[Black "Quylthulg"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "1922"]
[BlackElo "2055"]
[ECO "A40"]
[TimeControl "180"]

1. d4 b6 2. e4 Bb7 3. Nc3 e6 4. Bd3 Bb4 5. Bd2 Bxc3 6. Bxc3 Nf6 7. f3 d5 8. e5 Nfd7 9. Nh3 Qh4+ 10. Nf2 c5 11. g3 Qe7 12. f4 Nc6 13. O-O cxd4 14. Be1 h5 15. h3 g5 16. f5 Ndxe5 17. fxe6 fxe6 18. Bb5 O-O-O 19. Bxc6 Bxc6 20. Nd3 Nc4 21. Bf2 Qc7 22. Qe2 Ne3 23. Bxe3 Qxg3+ 24. Qg2 Qxg2+ 25. Kxg2 dxe3 26. Rf6 d4+ 27. Kg3 Rde8 28. Ne5 Be4 29. a4 Rh7 30. a5 Rc7 31. axb6 Rxc2 32. bxa7 Rg2# {White checkmated} 0-1

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